- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2001

Chen Shui-bian was inaugurated on May 20, 2000, as Taiwan's first leader from an opposition political party since the Nationalists fled the mainland in 1949 during the civil war.
A lawyer who defended pro-democracy dissidents in the past, Mr. Chen has three more years until the next presidential elections. On Friday, he spoke with defense reporter Bill Gertz in the Presidential Office in Taipei.

Question: Generally, what are your views of current relations between Taiwan and China?
Answer: Regarding the PRC's [Peoples Republic of China's] so-called "One China" policy, I believe they are referring to the concept of peaceful unification and one country, two systems. The one-country, two-systems [idea] is the key of this position. I feel that many people do not clearly understand what this position implies, and there are also many illusions. This is the biggest problem and the most worrisome problem. In terms of the views of the 23 million people of Taiwan, recently our mainland affairs council conducted a poll which shows that in Taiwan there is roughly only about 15 percent of the people who support one country, two systems. This is a fact.
To put it more clearly, the PRC's one-China policy means one country, two systems, while the U.S. understanding of their one-China policy does not include one country, two systems. So [regarding] the position announced by [Chinese] Deputy Premier Qian [Qichen] and the individuals from the New Party from Taiwan in their so-called "one country two systems and seven means of implementation," I think the positions are very difficult to imagine and they do not at all reflect the views of the 23 million Taiwanese people.
In terms of the one-state, two systems and seven means of implementation, I think no matter how you put it, it's the same meaning. And that is, they want one country with two systems. And I want to describe this in a different way. It is like a neighbor coming over to our home and very roughly saying, "I want your house. But please be assured that you can still live in the house and you can use part of the furniture."
But, it is clear that this house does not belong to the neighbors. It belongs to us and it is a product of years of hard work, hard-earned money and we purchased this house, and this is a very unreasonable demand, for this neighbor has contributed nothing to buy this house. Neither has the neighbor done anything toward purchasing the furniture. This is a very unreasonable demand and I just want to use this analogy to describe the situation we are in.

'Taiwan is different'
Besides, Taiwan is different from Hong Kong. The one-country, two-systems formula was designed for Hong Kong and it does not work for Taiwan. In Taiwan, the Taiwanese people can choose their own head of state, their own president. But it is clear, we have read recently from news reports, that in the deliberation on the legislation to select the chief administrator of Hong Kong, the legislation enables Beijing to nullify the result chosen by the people, even though they [the people] do have the right to select their own leader.
Taiwan has 100 percent freedom of speech and 100 percent freedom of religion. But this is not the case in Hong Kong; neither is it the case in the PRC.
To put it simply, "one China" means one country, two systems, and under one country, two systems, they say "You can have democracy, you can have your own system, your own freedom and human rights. But you must have my approval, my pre-approval." So this kind of one country, two systems, which is the PRC's one-China principle, is not only hard to accept by me personally, but it is unacceptable by the 23 million Taiwanese people.
Q: The most visible threat right now across the Taiwan Strait is the buildup of short-range missiles in Fujian province. How do you see this buildup? This is viewed by the United States with some alarm as very destabilizing. How do you plan to deal with that threat?
A: Recently there was a very famous American movie called "Thirteen Days" [about the 1962 Cuban missile crisis]. But for the 23 million Taiwanese people, our missile threat is not only a 13-day threat. Rather, we have lived for a very long time under a missile threat on a daily basis.
In regards to increases in the PRC military budget, ever since 1989, over the past 12 years, their military budget has grown by double digits annually and this double-digit growth rate is far greater than their economic growth rate. Furthermore, the PRC's economic development allows for greater resources for military expansion and missile deployment.

The China threat
The PRC threat is directed not only against Taiwan. It is at the same time also a threat to the United States and Japan. The PRC opposes U.S. development of the TMD, theater missile defense, and the NMD [national missile defense] system. However, they never look to the source. Why is there an issue of TMD and NMD? The key is that the PRC is increasing its missile deployment by 50 to 70 missiles a year at this growth rate, and it is a significant threat to the peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region. It is because of this threat that there is an issue of developing TMD and NMD.
Q: Does China need to abandon its announced plans to use force as a precondition for getting the cross-strait dialogue going again?
A: I think in the foreseeable future it will be very difficult for them to give up the threat of the use of force, because this is the fundamental substance of their regime. In my May 20 inaugural speech last year, I pledged the "four do nots" and one "have not." But the precondition was that if the PRC has no intention to use force, I had these pledges. But despite their ongoing threat, we have not given up our hope and our goodwill for peace in the Taiwan Strait and the improvement of cross-strait relations. So [I] hope the leaders on both sides across the strait can jointly deal with the question of the so-called one China.
I believe that as long as we can sit down and resume the dialogue across the strait, we can discuss any issues. We would not rule out discussion of any issue, including the so-called one China question. And of course this may also include a cross-strait peace resolution.
Q: You mentioned earlier the issue of missile defense. That would seem to be the most immediate defense need right now. What are Taiwan's plans for missile defense, TMD, and is there consideration being given to developing a counter-missile force, an offensive missile force?
A: It is clear that in facing the PRC's growing missile deployment, the U.S. is engaging in research and development of the TMD system and the NMD system. We know that the Japanese government is also taking part in the [research and development] of the TMD. Asia Pacific peace and stability is in Taiwan's interest.

'Common interest'
It is also the common interest of the United States and Japan. I believe that peace in the Taiwan Strait is key to the overall stability of the Asia Pacific region. So maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait and avoiding a PRC threat against Taiwan is something that the U.S., Japan and Taiwan must jointly deal with in a manner of division responsibilities and cooperation.
Currently, the relevant agencies of our government are actively studying and evaluating the possibility of taking part or investing in the TMD project. But so far we don't have a conclusion. In light of the recent Pentagon report to Congress on cross-strait military balance, in this report it was indicated that by the year 2005 there could be a loss of the military balance across the strait. And in consideration of Taiwan's actual self-defense needs and in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. administration this past April made an arms sales decision that would significantly increase Taiwan's air defense, anti-submarine, underwater and surface defense capabilities.
I believe this would greatly strengthen Taiwan's overall self-defense as well as elevate the confidence of the Taiwanese people. And we welcome this decision with great appreciation. The arms decision is not an encouragement or support for a cross-strait arms race. Instead, it is to enhance security in the Taiwan strait while giving the Taiwanese people great confidence to engage in dialogue across the Taiwan Strait and to protect Taiwan's hard-won democracy.
Q: How about the issue of Taiwan developing surface-to-surface missiles or land attack cruise missiles? Is that an option? Some people say that in addition to missile defense, you could use missile offense to create a deterrent.
A: Taiwan's broader defense strategy is effective deterrence to defend ourselves. As such we will not initiate war; neither will we initiate the first strike. So as President Bush of the United States has said, the U.S. government is willing to help Taiwan defend ourselves. As such, we will not develop any offensive weapons; neither do we intend to purchase any offensive weapons.
Q: You mentioned President Bush's statement. Tell me your reaction to President Bush's remarks that the United States would do "whatever it took" to help defend Taiwan.
A: I don't think there are too serious differences between the cross-strait policy goals of the Bush administration and the Clinton administration. But the difference is that in the Clinton years, they maintained a policy of a strategic partnership with emphasis on economic relations and business interests, while the Bush administration's policy has been described as one of strategic competition with greater emphasis on national security and regional stability.

'Giving dignity'
So in terms of the U.S. government assistance for Taiwan in terms of our self-defense and giving Taiwan great treatment with dignity, I believe this change in attitude is somewhat of a difference in the administration. But in terms of the major policy goals, I don't think there will be serious changes.
Q: You mentioned the weapons sale. The Bush administration has offered a very good package. Kidd-class missile ships, diesel submarines and P-3s [reconnaissance aircraft] are the most visible items. Aegis destroyers were deferred. Is the government close to making its decision, and what do you regard as the most important of the three main systems? Subs, ships or aircraft?
A: As I mentioned, [regarding] the new arms sales decision [Taiwan was] welcoming the decision and with great appreciation. I believe it is also in line with Taiwan's actual defense needs. Some decisions in April, they were not made but rather they were deferred, such as the very important decision on the Aegis. It was not received, but rather the decision was deferred upon more evaluation.
Kidd-class destroyer is not a replacement for the Aegis. We don't see it that way.
As for which item is most important and meaningful for Taiwan, I believe that the strengthening of Taiwan's air defense, the anti-submarine capability as well as the underwater and surface combat capabilities are all necessary for Taiwan's security. And again we look on this decision with great appreciation.
Q: Reaching a conclusion on how many and which ones gets to be very expensive. Will economics play a part in which weapons are purchased?
A: In principle there are no major problems, but for some items of the package, if the assembly line can be created not only for weapons designated for the ROC [Republic of China, the formal name of the Taiwanese government], but rather if there are other countries interested in purchasing the similar items and there are great quantities, then we can lower the cost of manufacturing the item, and also ease the burden on ourselves.

No budget problem
This is our greatest consideration right now. But there are also some items that have already been decided but the payment is not required until three to five years from now [or] the payment will be divided in annual budgets of several years. So I don't think the economic factor is too serious for us. Besides, some items can be covered in our annual budget, while others will require a special budget.
Q: Currently the PLA is conducting large-scale exercises on Dongshan island. The Pentagon has tried to play this down. The government here has also tried to play this down. There is some concern that these are meant as a political signal, that the amphibious landing is an indication that the PRC is trying to show its attack capability. How do you view these exercises?
A: Just as the Pentagon, the U.S., is closely watching these exercises, we also have a very tight grasp of the situation. Our intelligence is being conducted. We understand some of the exercises are specific, while some are regular exercises. But in these very sensitive times, these exercises are given special meaning and sometimes exaggerated.
Q: You mentioned military-to-military exchanges with the PRC. Please elaborate on the confidence-building measures.
A: In regard to CBM, what we call confidence-building measures, especially a military CBM, we believe are very important. I just want to raise an example. That is the EP-3 incident that happened this April 1 [when a U.S. reconnaissance plane was struck by a Chinese fighter jet and made an emergency landing on China's Hainan island]. Across the Taiwan Strait, we don't have any adequate or effective CBMs, nor do we have any channels or dialogue mechanism. I think if such an incident happened across the strait, there would be serious consequences beyond our imagination.

Avoiding panic
If there can be prior notification of military activity, I think we can avoid much misunderstanding and misjudgment. We can also avoid the overexaggeration in the media and the public. I hope that military activities or even regular exercises can have prior notification because [with] prior notification, or if they can be more transparent, we can avoid the problem of the media overexaggeration.
Especially the PRC uses some Hong Kong media in a small and insignificant location in the news to make an announcement, and then such an announcement is used by the media in Taiwan and exaggerated.
They quote it, exaggerating it and causing a panic. I think these problems can be avoided.
Q: Should there be greater military-to-military exchanges between the Taiwan military and the United States military? Do you favor that, especially since the U.S. president has expressed a greater willingness to help Taiwan?
A: I believe that military exchange is necessary. Not only military exchange, but military cooperation is even more important. The U.S. and Taiwan do not have official diplomatic relations. As such, it would be difficult to achieve a military alliance.
However, in terms of military exchange and cooperation, there is still much more room for improvement. Currently, relations are much better than in the past and have made significant progress, but they can still be upgraded. In military exchange and cooperation, the procurement of weapons and hardware is only one part of it.
What is more important are the personal exchanges and cooperation.
I believe that the training and education of personnel is not less important than the procurement of hardware. The uplifting of battlefield management training capabilities, as well as joint training exercises between the different divisions of the military, are also important.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide